I cannot stop thinking about the other night. I saw TOUCH at the Soho Theatre, the new highly anticipated play from the creators of Fleabag. Fleabag has, of course, grown into a beast of its own since last year. Everyone from Amy Schumer to Michelle Wolf fell totally head over heels in love with its filth and unique brand of feminist potty-mouth comedy. Phoebe Waller-Bridge went on to win a BAFTA, has been attracting various headlines about potentially being the Next Doctor Who and currently writing a TV show for BBC America. She’s the face of it all, but her partner-in-crime Vicky Jones (Waller-Bridge and Jones both founded the company DryWrite) is my new obsession.
Fleabag is strangely special to me in a personal way too. Last year I found a brilliant new friend in Sian Clifford (through total coincidence) who plays Fleabag’s sister Claire, my favourite character in the series. Sian is of course nothing like Claire (duh she’s an actress) but I am genuinely amazed every time I see her act because I find it so incredible that my friend can magically disappear on stage and is nowhere to be seen. She is currently starring in GLORIA at Hampstead Theatre and my admiration for team #FLEABAG grows more and more by the day.
So with TOUCH, I went in with no expectations, only that it “might be a bit like Fleabag” and honestly: it blew me away. The main story is following a 33-year-old called Dee who is stuck in a rut and you get to see a series of sexual relationships and friendships played out in her postage-stamp-sized flat. The acting was impeccable, the characters were so hilariously familiar to anyone living the London life and the jokes were subtle but piercing with a lasting effect. Some of the jokes got huge applauses. Each character could have been too much of a parody if they were pushed too far, but every character felt totally real and three-dimensional. The pace of writing didn’t leave the audience any time to breathe, but I was more than happy to have been kept laughing for an hour and a half. When it was all over, my throat felt a bit hoarse. I realised I hadn’t laughed that much non-stop in a long time. I kept looking over at my friend Kate next to me, because some of it was so relatable it felt like the writer Vicky Jones had climbed inside our heads while we were asleep, made notes and then had it acted out in front of us.
I don’t want to give anything away in this review, because the magic of any play is not knowing where it’s going.
All I can say is Amy Morgan who plays Dee is absolutely brilliant, a perfect blend of vulnerable and quietly powerful. You want to give Dee a hug but also kick her up the arse. Vicky Jones has created a world where the complex shame and guilt that so many women feel has been fully highlighted. This play gives a voice to many women who may sometimes feel ignored and says “IT’S OKAY”. When any shameful secrets (fictional or real) are laid bare in front of an audience all we can feel is empathy and familiarity. My main takeaway is realising how much guilt women carry around with us: how we spend our time, what we eat, what our secret fantasies are, what we weigh, what we buy, how much of a “bad feminist” we are, who we date, our political views, our careers and our private sex lives. We are exhausting ourselves and most of it isn’t actually our fault. This play shows how we are all complex, all human and all trying to navigate through the same old shit.
I loved how this play explored all of the things right on the tip of our tongues right now: Race, sexuality, social media politics, gender, porn and “lad” culture, feminism, toxic masculinity, flimsy connection and the confusion of having too many choices in life to swipe left and right on.
SO GO AND SEE THIS PLAY. And when you do, please tell me about it so we can have a long natter about it.